Riyad Hijab
Photo: AFP

Syria PM defects, joins opposition

In statement, Riyad Hijab says defected from 'terrorist regime' and joined ranks of 'freedom revolution'; rebels say three other ministers also defected

Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Hijab has been sacked, state television reported on Monday, Syrian former Prime Minister Riyad Hijab, defected on Monday to Jordan and is now said to be heading to Qatar, al-Arabiya news channel said, quoting his spokesman.


An official source in the Jordanian capital Amman confirmed that Hijab had gone over to the opposition seeking to topple President Bashar al-Assad after fleeing across the border with his family.


and an official source in Amman said he has defected with his family to neighboring Jordan.


Syrian state TV announced Hijab's dismissal as government forces appeared to prepare a ground assault to clear battered rebels from Aleppo, the country's biggest city.


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"I announce today my defection from the killing and terrorist regime and I announce that I have joined the ranks of the freedom and dignity revolution. I announce that I am from today a soldier in this blessed revolution," Hijab, 56, said in a statement read in his name by the spokesman.


He said his defection comes at a time "when Syria is passing through the most difficult war crimes, genocide, and barbaric killings and massacres against unarmed citizens."


חיג'אב נשבע בפני הנשיא אסד ביוני (צילום: EPA)

Hijab (L) sworn in by Assad (Archive photo: EPA)


President Bashar Assad appointed Hijab, a former agriculture minister, as prime minister only in June following a parliamentary election which authorities said was a step towards political reform but which opponents dismissed as a sham.


"Hijab is in Jordan with his family," said the Jordanian official source, who did not want to be further identified.


Syrian TV said Omar Ghalawanji, who was previously a deputy prime minister, had been appointed to lead a temporary caretaker government on Monday.


A member of the Syrian opposition in Jordan said Hijab, his family, two ministers and three army officers have been in the Hashemite Kingdom since Sunday night.


Hijab is the highest-level government official to defect since the uprising against Assad's authoritarian rule began 17 months ago. The other ministers' identities were not immediately known.


Mohammad Otari, who identified himself as a spokesman for Hijab, urged other Syrians to join the defecting ministers.


Speaking on Al-Jazeera TV he said, "Don't be scared. Defect from this criminal regime.


Otari said Hijab is now a "soldier" of the revolution and added that his defection was planned for more than two months. He said the minister was now in a safe place, adding that Hijab took the job two months ago because the regime gave him a choice: Be killed or accept the post.


Otari said Hijab is from eastern province of Deir el-Zour from the Sikhni tribe. He said Hijab defected along with 10 families who are his relatives, adding that some of them held government posts including in various ministries.


Earlier in the day, a bomb blast hit the Damascus headquarters of Syria's state broadcaster as troops backed by fighter jets kept up an offensive against the last rebel bastion in the capital.


The bomb exploded on the third floor of the state television and radio building, state TV said. However, while the rebels may have struck a symbolic blow in their uprising against Assad, Information Minister Omran Zoabi said none of the injuries was serious, and state TV continued broadcasting.


Reuters, AP, AFP contributed to the report



פרסום ראשון: 08.06.12, 14:02
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